My grandmother, Edna Marie Thompson Fohlbrook, was born in Muskegon, Michigan in 1904. She grew up on a farm, and had to live "in town" with her aunt in order to attend high school. Her practical farm upbringing, combined with the times that she lived through, shaped my grandmother into a loving, generous, frugal and practical woman.
No article of clothing or household item escaped my grandmother's watchful eye. Everything that could be re-used or handed down was carefully cleaned, mended or repaired. Visiting my grandmother's house, there was no way to escape a trip to the basement to view her treasures and discover what you would be taking home with you. One section of my grandmother's basement always looked like a well-organized Goodwill store.
My grandmother also handed down her talent and joy in handwork. When I was a young girl, my grandmother taught me how to knit, crochet and embroider. Her small sewing cabinet, a gift from her two brothers on her 16th birthday nearly 78 years ago, stands in a place of honor in my sewing room today.
When I was very young, my great-aunt Clara lived in a small house next to my grandparents. Frail and bedridden, my childhood memories are of a tiny woman with soft white hair. Aunt Clara's feet were often cold, so my grandmother designed and crocheted a pair of woolen slipper socks, ribbed at the top so that they would stay on and with soft bottoms, so they could be worn in bed. Of course, my frugal grandmother crocheted them from odds and ends of yarn she had in her sewing room, so they were multi-colored.
Soon Grandma was crocheting "slipper socks" for her grandchildren. We wore them as brightly-colored liners inside our snow boots. This meant we could come inside the house, put on a dry pair of slipper socks, and head back out to play with our feet once again warm and dry!
It was such a warm and wonderful feeling wearing slipper socks, that after awhile we just continued to wear them around the house. When a hole wore through the bottom of a slipper sock, Grandma took the pair home. When she brought them back, the bottom part was replaced with yet another color. Eventually, Grandma created a small inventory of slipper socks to have on hand when a child needed a new pair.
When I was 13 and getting ready to start high school, I decided I wanted a pair of slippers in my school colors, blue and white. Asking my Grandma to make me such a pair, she replied: "Kim Marie, I believe you're old enough to learn to make your own." That afternoon was spent on my Grandma's sofa, as I learned the simple pattern. Over the next week, I spent days and hours crocheting a pair of slippers that my Grandma could have finished in an evening watching television. When the pair was complete, I was proud and Grandma was beaming. As I grew into adulthood, my grandmother's hands grew tired. Great-grandchildren arrived as my brothers and I began families of our own.
One Christmas, I made a pair of slipper socks for each niece and nephew. My Grandma smiled as brightly colored feet scampered around the Christmas tree. Not surprisingly, many of the adults wanted a pair of slipper socks, too, so I took requests, which kept me busy for several winter evenings.
Next Thanksgiving Day, my growing children, nieces and nephews, as well as my younger sister away in the Navy, placed orders for new slippers, which kept my hands busy until Christmas. Now I do as my grandmother did, always having a pair in progress, creating an inventory to have on hand for a child visiting our house.
My grandmother has been gone for many years now. Every time I start a new pair of slippers, I smile and remember her. I usually carry a bag of yarn and a pair of slippers "in progress" with me wherever I go, so I have related the special memory of my grandmother hundreds of times in my life.
I appreciate being able to share it with you. And I look forward to the day when I may teach my own grandchild the secret of handmade love.
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